The right to an appropriate public education and equal treatment of children with disabilities has been a highly contested issue in the last few decades. Until 1975, most disabled children were deliberately segregated and denied the right to education. In 1971, a case was filed by the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children against the Common Wealth of Pennsylvania (PARC v. PA) on the access of to public education by the children with disabilities. Attorney Thomas K. Gilhool represented PARC while Attorney Gen. , Ed Weintrub represented the defendants in the three judge case.
The concerned parents (plaintiff) through their attorney argued that children with disabilities were denied free access to education and/or an appropriate and adequate education under the then instructional programs (United States District Court, 1971). Inspired by the equal rights movement, the parents presented their claim through Attorney Thomas who based his argument on the Brown v. Board of Education case which had ruled out that the equal but separate schools’ segregation in practice was unconstitutional under the Federal constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment.
However, the defendants (commonwealth) did not struggle for the exclusion of such children but rather opted to collaborate with the United States federal court and PARC to arrive at a consent agreement. The case led to a landmark decision affirming that children with disabilities have an equal right to education at the expense of the public including due processes. Ruling on the case, the judges referred to Section 1304 of the 1949’s Public School Code under which they forbid any form of denial of access of the mentally retarded children to free public education and/or training program (Ibid).
Quoting Section 1372(3) of the same code, the court ruled against denial of home based instruction to any child with child retardation on the basis that the disability due to retardation is not short-long-term and/ or that the retardation is not accompanied by physical disability. The ruling also obliged the defendants to conduct with immediate effect a reevaluation of the stated plaintiffs including all other mentally retarded individuals of 6 to 21 years and provide every one of them appropriate and free public education program and training in line with their abilities (Wise & Fagan, 2000).
PA was also ordered to provide a preschool program for both mentally healthy and retarded children below six years of age according to their abilities The ruling demanded that commonwealth provide free appropriate public education (FAPE) which is an individualized educational and training program that meets the specific needs of each individual according to their type of disability. This implies that a school psychologists, regarded as a diagnostician with the responsibility of conducting individual study and evaluation of abnormal cases to provide recommendation.
The psychologist is concerned with the assessment and arrangement of contingencies for groups or individual students (Ibid). The ruling of this case expanded the scope to which the psychologist could intervene into individualized cases as the limited focus on individualized instruction formerly practiced was lifted. For instance, prior to this case, a school psychologist would have been limited to offer intervention programs recommending special or individualized care since segregation did not allow it. This means that the school psychologist is no longer limited in the range of individualized remedies they can offer to various instructors.
The U. S Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA Act) governs the manner in which public agencies and states provide special education and early intervention programs for children with disabilities. It focuses on the age bracket ranging from birth to 21 years of age. IDEA was formed from the preceding Education for All Handicapped Children Act which is a product of several federal laws ruling against the unconstitutional segregation and deprivation of public education and training programs to children with disabilities (Network of Advocates for Promising Practices in Education).
The ruling of the PARC v. Common wealth case provided the platform for these similar cases that facilitated for the 1975’s Education for All Handicapped Children Act that guaranteed for the first time, constitutionally protected rights to an appropriate and free public education to youths and children with disabilities. Amendments on the law in 1990 had the name of the Act changed to IDEA. This 1971 ruling has continued to impact on IDEA and disabilities issues at large since through its consideration, the former unconstitutional segregation of schools on separate but equal basis was nullified.
References Network of Advocates for Promising Practices in Education, IDEA History. Retrieved 27 May 2010 from http://www. etsu. edu/idea/nappe/ideahistory. html. United States District Court. (1971). Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 334 F. Supp. 1257 (E. D. PA 1972). E. D. Pennsylvania. Retrieved 27 May 2010 from http://www. faculty. piercelaw. edu/redfield/library/Pdf/case-parc. pennsylvania. pdf. Wise, P. S. & Fagan, T. K. (2000). School Psychology: Past, present, and future. (2nd ed. ). Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.